Former Minister Gonen Segev Suspected of Drug Smuggling

Roni Singer-Heruti
Haaretz Correspondent
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Roni Singer-Heruti
Haaretz Correspondent

Former energy minister Gonen Segev was remanded in custody at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Thursday for seven days on suspicion he attempted to smuggle 25,000 Ecstasy pills into the country from the Netherlands.

Segev, a pediatrician by profession, served as a minister for the right-wing Tsomet party in Yitzhak Rabin's government in the mid-1990s.

A sweeping gag order placed on the case two weeks ago was partially lifted on Thursday morning.

The former minister is also suspected of using a forged diplomatic passport. Israel Radio reported that Segev's diplomatic passport had expired, but the date had allegedly been altered.

Two other men, identified as Ariel Friedman and Moshe Verner, have also been arrested as suspects in the case and were also remanded in custody on Thursday.

Judge David Rosen wrote in Thursday's ruling: "This does not seem to be an isolated incident. Investigators believe that the suspects are part of, though not necessary the central figures in, a drug-smuggling ring... The suspect Segev apparently tried to smuggle the drugs caught by using a forged diplomatic passport. I have looked into the allegations and found that there are grounds to them. It is almost possible to say that these are not [merely] allegations, but apparently real evidence."

Segev, who was placed under arrest on Wednesday night, denies all allegations against him.

The Tel Aviv Central Police District received information some two weeks ago of a shipment of Ecstasy pills meant to arrive in Israel from the Netherlands. Police also learned that Segev was allegedly meant to pick up the drugs in the Netherlands and bring them to Israel.

Segev, however, claims that he was in the Netherlands for business, where he met a friend, an Israeli lawyer, who gave him a package his cousin had asked him to bring into Israel. Segev says he was told the five-kilogram package contained M&M chocolates.

The former minister claims further that he stored the package in a locker at Schiphol Airport before he boarded the Tel Aviv-bound flight because he feared the package did not really contain chocolates.

He reported the matter to Dutch police and to Israeli police when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Police called him in for questioning on Wednesday night, when he was arrested.

Israeli media and Segev's attorney Lior Epstein have tried for the last week to have the gag order lifted. Epstein claims that his client is innocent and has no link to the crime and thus wants to see the truth come to light.